Episode 2 of The Ultimate Fighter 8 is underway and it lives up to its title "Down to Business" when right after the recap of Episode 1 we roll into the fifth lightweight elimination fight. Coaches Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira are cageside as well as UFC President Dana White.
Lightweight elimination #5: Wesley Murch (3-2) vs. John Polakowski (2-1)
Wesley immediately endears himself to the US fans with his English accent and love for Winston Churchill. Not to be outdone, the Ritalin-deprived Polakowski flashes his pearly whites and declares his love to hug well, just about everybody. Fortunately he's not fighting Buddy Revell.
Round 1: Murch comes in hard but eats a couple of shots and goes to the ground. He works his way up and they tangle. Dana declares his love for small guys. Somewhere in time the Lollipop Kids are smiling. Murch gets a trip and takes Polakowski down. He gets into mount and starts to land some shots from the top. Murch then rolls into a heel hook but doesn't look confident in his ability to execute it. Murch loses the position and ends up on bottom. Mir is very vocal with instructions. Nogueira seems content to just shout "C'mon John!" They get back to their feet and Murch ducks into an upward knee. Polakowski tries to capitalize but Murch surprises him by slipping around and getting his back. Murch comes close to securing the choke but Polakowski twists into mount. They get back to their feet once again with ten seconds left and Murch nails him with a huge low kick but then collapses and eats a few shots as time expires.
The round ends but Murch is in the fetal position clutching his shin. Apparently the last low kick injured his leg. Mir convinces him to press onward and Murch answers the bell for round two.
Round 2: Murch opens with a jab and tries to follow it with a fight-ending flying knee but falls down and the fight is stopped due to his leg injury. It's unfortunate because it was an action-packed fight. Polakowski runs around the ring like he just escaped from Bellevue and then tries to hug Nogueira, White and Mir. Nogueira doesn't seem to mind and admits he likes to hug too. Mir on the other hand hasn't looked this uncomfortable since waiting for the judges decision in his fight with Dan Christison at UFC 61.
Polakowski wins via TKO
Light heavyweight elimination #5: Shane Primm (1-0) vs. Sean O'Connell (1-1)
Primm is having trouble dealing with the presence of fried chicken in the dressing room. O'Connell decided to give things a go after watching Season 1 winner Forrest Griffin make his mark. His blood is on your hands Mr. Griffin.
Round 1: O'Connell rushes in and they go to the cage. Grabbing a single, O'Connell works and secures a nice takedown. Primm uses the position to work for an armbar. O'Connell escapes but Primm maintains a dominant position. They get back to their feet and go right back down with Primm looking for a kimura. O'Connell gets outclassed on the ground and gives up his back and the fight when Primm locks in a rear naked choke.
Primm wins via submission (rear naked choke)
Right after the stoppage Primm gets to his feet and thanks Mir for "great coaching". I admit Mir was instrumental in the win but Primm should also thank himself for great listening - something I think is still missing in the ranks of the UFC.
Lightweight elimination #6: Ido Pariente (13-4) vs. Efrain Escudero (10-0)
Pariente comes right out and declares his love for Israel. Escudero admits it's better to fight in the cage than in the streets where there is the potential for getting 86'd.
Round 1: They meet in the middle and lock up. After some minor struggling Escudero scores a takedown. Pariente gets to his feet and tries a single-leg takedown of his own but can't make it happen. He backs away and they exchange jabs prompting Escudero to shoot and land another takedown. Pariente powers out but gets stuck in a guillotine. Escudero lets it go and takes his back. Pariente tries to fight him off but eventually succumbs to the rear naked choke (as Escudero predicted in the pre-fight interview).
Escudero wins via submission (rear naked choke)
Light heavyweight elimination #6: Ryan Lopez (4-3) vs. Tom Lawler (4-1-1)
Lopez is a former male model and current bounty hunter who like Escudero, is happy to be fighting in a non-lethal environment. Mir gets a little giddy when Lopez shows his athleticism by jumping straight into the air like a frightened feline. Lawler tries to use MMA math to explain how he needs to eat to fight and not die so he can live to fight or something convoluted like that. Lawler has a haircut that looks like a cross between a Yamaka and a starfish.
Round 1: Lopez goes for a low kick but Lawler catches it and takes him down. Lopez is absolutely smothered by Lawler and gets choked out just seconds into the first. Rear naked choke seems to be the order of the day. Mir, who practically carried the flag for Team Lopez, opts out of his membership by stating "You gotta be complete".
Lawler wins via submission (rear naked choke)
Lightweight elimination #7: Roli Delgado (5-3-1) vs George Roop (8-3)
Dana calls this one "Battle of the Beanpoles" because both fighters are over six feet tall. Pretty tall for lightweights.
Highlights only. Roop is able to outpoint "The Crazy Cuban" in a back-and-forth fight and impresses Mir in the process for being so coachable.
Roop wins via unanimous decision
Light heavyweight elimination #7: Kyle Kingsbury (7-1) vs. Ryan Bader (7-0)
Highlights only. Kingsbury ahead in round one but "Darth" Bader uses his strength and wrestling to come back in round two and choke him out.
Bader wins via submission (arm triangle choke)
Lightweight elimination #8: Charles Diaz (3-0) vs Shane Nelson (9-3)
Highlights only. Nelson dominates Diaz in both rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory. Both coaches are impressed with his skill set. For those not in the know, Nelson trains under BJ Penn.
Nelson wins via unanimous decision
Light heavyweight elimination #8: Eliot Marshall (5-1) vs. Karn Grigoryan (5-0)
Marshall takes the humble approach. Dana comes to the conclusion that Grigoryan is nuts based on his history with Armenian fighters.
Round 1: Grigoryan opens with a hard low kick followed by a right. Marshall shoots and gets stuffed. Grigoryan muscles him to the ground and tries to batter him but Marshall uses his jiu-jitsu to avoid punishment and stay mobile. Marshall is able to sweep and get mount. Grigoryan rolls and reverses position but gets a submission attempt at every turn.
Round 2: Partial head kick by Marshall. Grigoryan, who is bleeding from the nose, answers with three low kicks. They start to trade on their feet and neither looks to have refined striking but Grigoryan is throwing harder. Marshall has too many close calls and takes it to the ground. Marshall throws knees from side control until the bell sounds. The judges see it even through two and call for a third round.
Round 3: Each fighter throws the requisite haymaker and Marshall quickly brings it to the ground. Unfortunately Grigoryan muscles his way into mount after a brief struggle. Once again Marshall is able to sweep and this time gets his back. Grigoryan tries to roll so Marshall quickly transitions to mount. He lands a few elbows but Grigoryan powers out and gets back on top but begins gushing blood. Mazzagatti stops the action for what I thought was a cut check but instead he stands them up and lets the fight continue. With ten seconds left they go for broke but nothing lands. The third was all Marshall.
Grigoryan wins via shocking, er, split-decision
After the fight everyone - including Dana - is stunned at the outcome. Well, everyone except Noguiera and Grigoryan. Nog thinks he won via aggression and Grigoryan's only argument is that he won because the judges said so.
After the fights we learn that Antwain Britt has a broken hand and will not be able to continue. Since Britt was a light heavyweight, does anyone want to take a wild guess as to who gets to stay?
Marshall is back after being eliminated for about an hour and I guess the only thing I am wondering is how Karn Grigoryan must feel now Eliot Marshall is back in the house, knowing that Dana and most of the other fighters feel he was on the losing end of his fight.
Do I foresee a future rematch?
One thing I noticed about the fights was how instrumental Frank Mir was in several of the victories. He was on his feet, constantly coaching and calling out strategies. Nog seemed much more passive and I wonder if that will be a factor in future fights.
Stay tuned next week as injuries plague the final roster and some of the expected drama begins to unfold.
See you then!